Image for Congressman Kurt Schrader Certain to Face Progressive Challenger

Seven-term Congressman Kurt Schrader is weighing whether to run in Oregon’s newly drawn Fifth or Sixth congressional districts, but either way he is likely to face a Democratic primary challenge from the political left.

Schrader represents Oregon’s Fifth District, which has been redrawn to include Bend, but exclude Salem and the Oregon Coast. The new district has a slight Democratic voter registration edge and includes Canby (his hometown) as well as most of Clackamas County, rural Marion County, a chunk of the Cascade Range and a large portion of Deschutes County.

Creation of the district was a political compromise from the original Democratic congressional map that connected an East Portland district with Bend. Republicans charged both the original and compromise plans were gerrymandered by Democrats to claim five of the six Oregon congressional districts.

The chair of the House Redistricting Committee, Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, has announced her candidacy for the new Sixth Congressional District. Last week, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who ran a credible race in 2020 in the Democratic primary for secretary of state, said he would run for the Fifth Congressional District. Salinas and McLeod-Skinner are viewed as more progressive candidates than Schrader, who has been part of the House moderates that objected to portions of President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative.

Candidates and Members of Congress aren’t required to live in their districts. Schrader’s residence is in the new Fifth Congressional District. McLeod-Skinner’s residence in Terrebonne is just outside the Fifth District. In 2018, she captured 39 percent of the vote in her challenge of former Oregon GOP Congressman Greg Walden in the safely Republican Second Congressional District, which includes most of Eastern Oregon.

Schrader withstood a challenge from the left in the 2020 Democratic primary, but he has angered liberal Democrats by siding with House moderates in opposing the size of Biden’s $3.5 trillion human infrastructure proposal and voting in committee against a provision to allow Medicare to negotiate pricing with drug makers. He was one of only two Democrats to vote against the earlier $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.

Schrader also infuriated progressives by pushing for an early vote on the physical infrastructure bill approved by the Senate before an agreement was reached on the human infrastructure package. Schrader chairs the Blue Dog PAC, whose members threatened to oppose the budget reconciliation resolution if the physical infrastructure bill wasn’t approved.

In recent days, Schrader has sounded more accommodating to the reduced $1.75 trillion price tag for Biden’s human infrastructure plan. He also has expressed support for giving Medicare limited authority to negotiate certain drug prices. A test of where he stands could come as early as Tuesday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi says both measures could reach the House floor. A draft of the budget reconciliation bill was scheduled to be finalized Sunday night, allowing the House Rules Committee to mark it up in preparation for a floor vote.

Schrader also infuriated progressives by pushing for an early vote on the physical infrastructure bill approved by the Senate before an agreement was reached on the human infrastructure package.

March 8 is the deadline for candidates to file for office. March 10 is the deadline for candidate statements in the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet. The primary election is May 17. Mail-in ballots will be sent to registered voters April 27. Ballots to active military personnel and voters who are out of state are mailed earlier.

The 2022 primary election will be the first one in Oregon that allows ballots to count if they are postmarked no later than election day. The 2021 legislature approved the change. Oregon is now one of 17 states allowing election-day postmarked ballots to count. Valid ballots arriving after election day have generated controversy in other states, especially in close elections when voting patterns between mail-in and in-person balloting differ sharply. In Oregon, all elections are vote-by-mail.